99-year-old from Gabriola Island skydives in Father's Day tradition
LANGFORD -- Although his name is Patrick, the senior introduces himself as Cliff: “I’m Cliff Drop Over,” he says before laughing at his joke.
His grandson Mike smiles and says his grandfather always has a joke ready to share.
“What’s the difference between an elephant and a mailbox?” Mike asks, setting up one of Patrick’s favourite jokes. “You don’t know? I’m not going to send you to get the mail!”
But Patrick wasn’t joking when he first invited Mike to go skydiving on Father’s Day a few years ago.
“[I’m] hot to trot if you want to call it that way,” Patrick had explained, when we first asked the then 94-year-old why he wanted to jump out of plane.
It’s been a Father’s Day tradition ever since at Skydive Vancouver Island.
“I look forward to it. He looks forward to it,” Mike says. “We get together. Then we go up. Then we go down.”
But this year was different for a couple reasons. First, Patrick is approaching 100 years old.
“No matter how old you get it’s never too late to take life by the horns,” Mike says about Patrick’s motivation.
The second reason this year is so remarkable is it’s Mike’s first Father’s Day as a dad.
“How awesome it is to be a dad and wake up and see their little smile,” Mike says.
And how awesome it is to have your seven-month-old Madeline cheering from the ground.
“She was really cute,” Mike says before showing me video of him holding his daughter while she points up to her great-grandfather’s approaching parachute. “It was pretty special.”
Mike says it was also a pretty different feeling diving down this year. Instead of the usual fear during the free fall, he was filled with awe and gratitude.
“Just appreciating all that is around us,” he says with a smile.
It’s what Patrick has always done while skydiving. He’s spent most of his almost 100 years being a daredevil and certainly never felt fear up here (after serving during the Second World War, he says free-falling 10,000 feet is nothing).
From this perspective, Patrick has always taken the time to consider what he says is most important in life — your people.
“I can’t think of anything more important,” Patrick says. “And just tell them all the time you love them.”
When Patrick lands safely and softly, he describes it with his unique humour: “Like a butterfly with sore feet.”
Then he poses for photos with his grandson and great-granddaughter. The adrenaline subsides, and their bond increases.
“Enjoy whatever you’re doing with them, jumping out of a plane or anything,” Mike smiles, considering the moments shared between his less-than-one-year-old daughter and his almost 100-year-old grandfather — moments a century in the making. “When you’re with family, just love them!”